Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cherry Chocolate Almond Cookie Bars

As the title states, these are bar cookies with cherries, chocolate, and almonds. A winning combination.

The base is a buttery shortbread with chopped dried cherries mixed into it. Then, when the bars come out of the oven, you immediately scatter chocolate chips over the hot cookie slab, wait a couple of minutes for them to melt, then spread to coat. A final shower of chopped, toasted almonds puts the cherry on top.
wait, but the cherry is on the bottom...
Anyway, the point is that these are dead simple, even though they look and taste fancy!

They also stay fresh, since they're just shortbread, for over a week in an airtight container, and are quite sturdy, so they would be a great cookie to send in the mail. I'm looking at you, holiday season!

[P.S. I burned some of the almonds I was toasting for these bars. wah wah. I also pretty majorly burned half of the granola I made earlier this week, so here's hoping I don't burn the next recipe (or undercook it, which I often seem to do too)...there's such a narrow window of success, and when it's not quite as obvious as a cake tester or browning, it's hard to know when something is done!]

This weekend is simply gorgeous in Chicago--sunny and warm with a cool breeze by the lake--so we went up to the Chicago Botanic Gardens on our bikes. It's so lovely there and they've got an amazing collection. I always love the rose garden, since the smells are as varied as the flowers themselves!

And a shout out to my mom, who is showing some of her plants at the Bromeliad show happening this weekend! If you're in the area and have some free time, I'd highly recommend going by and seeing the wonderful plants on show. They partner with the Cactus and Succulent society, so there is a lot to see, and all of them really unique!

Enjoy the day!

Cherry Chocolate Almond Cookie Bars
Yield: about 20 bars

  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) flour
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/2 ounces) superfine sugar, or sugar processed in a food processor for 30 seconds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened, cut into half inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 of an 8 ounce package) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup dried cherries, chopped*
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted, chopped almonds (or any other nut you like!)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 18x12 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment, or foil sprayed with nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, briefly combine the flour, sugar, cherries, and salt at low speed, just to mix well. Add the butter one piece at a time with the mixer running, slowly incorporating it into the dry ingredients. Keep mixing until the dough holds together when squeezed and looks crumbly. 
  3. Add vanilla and cream cheese and mix on low speed until the mixture just starts to come together in large clumps. Knead a few times in the bowl to finish mixing, then turn onto your prepared baking sheet and press into an even layer.
  4. Bake bars for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately upon removing the pan from the oven, sprinkle with the chocolate chips and let sit for 3 minutes to let the chocolate melt. 
  5. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the surface of the bars, then top with the almonds (or nut of your choice). Let cool completely before cutting into diamonds.
Cookies keep well in an airtight container for a week or longer.

Adapted ever so slightly from Baking Illustrated.

*Buyer beware: Craisins has a cherry dried fruit product that would seem to be dried cherries, but it's actually dried cranberries flavored with cherry juice. The dried cherries I got were from Sunmaid, and there wasn't quite a full cup in the bag but it was totally fine!

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